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Am J Pathol. 2010 Jun;176(6):2819-30. doi: 10.2353/ajpath.2010.090642. Epub 2010 May 6.

Mechanisms of HIV-tat-induced phosphorylation of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor subunit 2A in human primary neurons: implications for neuroAIDS pathogenesis.

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Department of Pathology, The Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, NY 10461, USA.


HIV infection of the central nervous system results in neurological dysfunction in a large number of individuals. NeuroAIDS is characterized by neuronal injury and loss, yet there is no evidence of HIV-infected neurons. Neuronal damage and dropout must therefore be due to indirect effects of HIV infection of other central nervous system cells through elaboration of inflammatory factors and neurotoxic viral proteins, including the viral transactivator, tat. We previously demonstrated that HIV-tat-induced apoptosis in human primary neurons is dependent on N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) activity. NMDAR activity is regulated by various mechanisms including NMDAR phosphorylation, which may lead to neuronal dysfunction and apoptosis in pathological conditions. We now demonstrate that tat treatment of human neurons results in tyrosine (Y) phosphorylation of the NMDAR subunit 2A (NR2A) in a src kinase-dependent manner. In vitro kinase assays and in vivo data indicated that NR2A Y1184, Y1325, and Y1425 are phosphorylated. Tat treatment of neuronal cultures enhanced phosphorylation of NR2A Y1325, indicating that this site is tat sensitive. Human brain tissue sections from HIV-infected individuals with encephalitis showed an increased phosphorylation of NR2A Y1325 in neurons as compared with uninfected and HIV-infected individuals without encephalitis. These findings suggest new avenues of treatment for HIV-associated cognitive impairment.

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